Brief Hiatus, but Have Some Prayers in the Meanwhile

As the title of the post suggests, I’m going to go on a brief hiatus for July and August.  Nothing bad, I assure you, it’s just that I’ve been cranking out a lot of work on my blog and social media generally while other work has piled up, and I need to focus on those projects for the next few weeks.  The bulk of this focus—in addition to The Adocentyn Temple Almanac project (which you should get your voice heard regarding options and desires if you haven’t yet!) and various book-writing projects—is to prepare my presentation for this year’s Salem Summer Symposium.  Yes, it’s still being held this year, though in an online format only due to the ongoing Reign of the Lady of Crowns, so even though we can’t all meet up in Salem, Massachusetts this year, there’s still plenty of awesome classes, presentations, and lectures being held that I thoroughly encourage you all to sign up for and participate in!  This year, I’m presenting my lecture at 1pm EDT on Saturday, August 15: Spelling by Spelling: Greek Alphabet Divination & Magic:

A variety of divination systems were used in ancient and classical Greece, ranging from oracles and prophets to common forms of sortilege. One of the more fascinating kinds of divination that was used in the ancient Hellenic world was that of grammatomancy, divination through the individual letters of the Greek alphabet. This lecture will cover the history of this useful and direct form of divination, and how it can build into an overarching spiritual practice of devotion to the Greek gods, theurgy, contemplation, and magic.

I’ve brought up grammatomancy a number of times on my blog before, and even though I don’t bring it up a lot nowadays, rest assured that it’s still a system I use often, both for the sake of divination, calendrics, and various other aspects of mysticism and theurgy.  I’m thrilled to be able to present on this topic, and hope you’ll join in!  I just need to get my ass in gear and actually develop the actual lecture and material for it, hence the hiatus so I can focus on that.

In the meantime, I don’t want to leave you high and dry, so let me leave you with something to mull over and busy yourself in the meantime.  As I’ve brought up in a number of previous posts, I’ve spent a good chunk of my time writing and developing a novel set of prayers, some of which are original and some of which are based on or influenced by the existing prayers and scriptures of religions that have played a role in my own spiritual development and growth.  Over time, some of these prayers get used more or less, depending on how my own practice develops further, and some I intend for general purpose stuff eventually get relegated to specific uses or vice versa.  To tide over my readers with some prayers that I invite them to give a whirl, or to at least share some of the logic and reasoning I use when coming up with such prayers, I’d like to show off a bit of my own stuff with three of my own prayers which I use to varying degrees in my own practice.

The first prayer is one I call the “Invocation to the Almighty”.  This prayer is based heavily on the biblical Book of Daniel, specifically verses 2:20-23, 2:28, 4:2-3, 4:35, and 6:26-27.  The wording of the original verses has been generalized somewhat to be more deistic than Jewish or Abrahamic at points, but what results is a simple invocation and praise of God, which I find to be a good one to open up a session of prayer in general focused on the Divine.

O God, may your holy name be blessed forever and ever,
for wisdom and power are yours.
You change all times and seasons, you remove and install all kings;
you give the wise their wisdom and knowledge to those who know;
you reveal deep and hidden things, and you know what is in the darkness.
Light abides with you, and Light comes forth from you.
I adore you and I praise you,
o God of the angels and the prophets,
o Lord of Heaven and Earth,
o Master of the Seen and Unseen,
o you who gives me wisdom and power.

Truly, he is the God of Gods, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords!
Bless the God of the angels and the prophets, he who is Most High,
the Ever-Living One who reigns forever,
whose dominion is everlasting,
whose kingdom endures throughout the generations,
whose might surpasses the end of time!
None can hold back his hand from acting,
none can challenge his deeds once done!

Praise, exalt, glorify, and bless the King of the All,
whose works are just and whose ways are right,
who humbles those who behave arrogantly,
who relieves those with burdened hearts,
who delivers and saves from perdition,
and who performs signs and wonders in Heaven and on Earth.

The second prayer is one I call the “Servant’s Call to God”.  This prayer takes on much looser influence from a variety of sources, including the Surah al-Fātiḥah from the Qur’ān and some of the wording of the prayer used for Ṣalah, while also taking in symbolic and literary references to the Three Holy Youths and the archangel Michael from the Book of Daniel and from some Syrian Orthodox Christian daily prayers.  Both an invocation and a supplication, this is also another good introductory prayer, but it also works well as a concluding one or one that stands well enough on its own.

How gracious is my God, how merciful is my Lord!
How holy is my God, how truly great is my Lord!
Who can match his power, who can be his equal?
Who can judge, but the one Lord of Judgment alone?
We are but guests in the world he has made for us,
but travelers along the road he has built for us!
For God is more gracious than any royal king, more merciful than any noble host,
more holy than any sacred priest, and greater than all he created!

May these prayers of pure speech and intention reach the Throne of God,
that God may be pleased with my offering to aid me in this life,
for it is to God that I pray, to God that I praise,
to God that I thank, and to God that I bless!
May God guide me along the straight path and empower me over my enemies.
May God purify me through his light and protect me from the darkness.
May God inspire me with his spirit and nourish me with his word.
May God correct me when I err and lift me when I fall.

The third prayer is one I call the “Prayer of Remembrance”.  Many people are familiar with the convention in Islamic cultures to sprinkle certain religious phrases throughout conversation and writing, like inshāllāh or alḥamdulillāh or subḥānallāh, which is frankly and honestly a beautiful and devout thing to do, constantly invoking God even in mundane communication as a means to pray without ceasing.  I basically took all these sayings—some used more often than others—and combined them all into one prayer.  There’s a dash of Hermetic stuff in this prayer, but it’s otherwise a general deist prayer with heavy Islamic flavor and origin.  This is a prayer I use every day, usually at the end of my own prayer sessions, though I’ll also use it on its own if I either cannot afford the time or energy to a full session of prayer or if I’m just taking a moment to myself for prayer outside my usual routine.

With God we begin, and with God may we always continue, God willing,
until such time as God sees fit to bring our lives to an end.
It is to God we all belong, and it is to God we all return,
for God is great and perfect in all things,
and there is no might nor power except in God.
In this and in all things do we thank God
for all his work, all his blessing, all his mercy, and all his Light unto us.
In this and in all things do we praise God, for only God knows best.
All glory be to God.

Although I didn’t include them as part of the prayers above, feel free to append “amen” or whatever sealing phrase you prefer.  Generally, nowadays, I only say “amen” if I’m declaring something to be or asking for something.  So, as an example, I typically won’t end the Invocation to the Almighty with “amen”, because I’m just praising God which does not need a seal (and rightfully so, as such praise should never end), but I do for the Servant’s Call to God, because I’m asking for something as a blessing from God.  I will, however, use “amen” for the Prayer of Remembrance, as that’s often my final prayer that I use to seal my entire prayer sessions with.  This is all just a thing I do, don’t feel obliged to follow my rule on this; end them with “amen” or not as is your own prayer custom, if you use these prayers at all.

For easier access of these prayers, I’ve updated the menu of the website, adding in the submenu Prayers → General Prayers (under which I’ve also put some of my older original prayers as well).  Just use the menu at the top of the website to navigate and take a look.

And with that, I’m off!  We’ll get back to our usual irregular posting again after the Symposium.  In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like to sign up for my self-directed courses on Renaissance Hermetic planetary ritual theurgy or the practice of European geomancy, please feel free to contact me!  And yes, I’m still available for readings and consultations, too, if desired.

Thoughts on PGM I.195—222 and Invocations to Hēlios

There are always surprises to be found in the wonderful treasure trove of the Greek Magical Papyri, as I think we’re all familiar with by now.  It’s a fantastic, if not sometimes hard-to-piece-together, resource of various approaches to magic both theurgic and thaumaturgic from Hellenic Egypt around the early centuries of the Roman Empire, giving us a blessed and bounteous buffet of works, notes, prayers, and rituals from a variety of magicians, priests, and occultists from back in the day.  Although it’s folly to treat the PGM as one single work, given that its various papyri were written and collected from various parts of Egypt across several centuries, there are sometimes neat connections you can make between different texts within the PGM that show a thread of common practice or other commonalities in how the different magicians back then worked for their desired and necessary ends—beyond just “add the usual”, of course.

I was flipping through my loved copy of Betz recently, this time on something of a mission.  I was looking for a relatively short invocation of the Sun to use as part of other works related to the decans and other solar-focused projects, and I wanted to focus this time on the papyri given earlier in the collection, which I don’t often turn to (even though they’re among the longest and most well-preserved of them all).  This time, I had taken note of a section from PGM I, also known as Papyrus 5025 housed in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, Germany, and I found PGM I.195—222, “the prayer of deliverance for the first-begotten and first-born god”.  It’s a relatively short prayer with only two reasonably-sized strings of barbarous words, and the text of it is pretty par-for-the-course as far as invocations to an almighty god for divine aid go, and is explicitly associated with Hēlios at the end of the text.

Below is my own version of the prayer in English, a slightly modified translation based on Betz:

I call upon you, o Lord!
Hear me, o holy god who rests among the holy ones,
at whose side the glorious angels stand forever!
I call upon you, o Forefather, and I beseech you, o Aiōn of Aiōns,
o unmoved ruler, eternal ruler of the celestial pole,
you who are established upon the seven-part heavens!
Υou who hold fast to the root of the cosmos!
you who possess the powerful name hallowed by all the angels!
Hear me, you who have established the mighty decans and archangels,
beside whom stands untold myriads of angels!
You have been exalted to Heaven by the Lord,
having borne witness to your wisdom and having praised your power,
having declared that your strength is as his in every way in this world.

I call upon you, o Lord of the All, in my hour of need;
hear me, for my soul is distressed, and I am troubled and in want of everything.
Come to me, who you are lord over all the angels;
shield me against all excess of power of the aerial Daimōn and of Fate.
O Lord, hear me, for I call upon you by your secret name
that reaches from the heights of Heaven to the depths of the Abyss:
Rescue me in an hour of need!

The two sets of barbarous words, transliterated into Roman text (and with my own aspirations of <h> thrown in for good measure where I find them to be appropriate):


In the above prayer, which is more-or-less readable from the papyrus (though with plenty of emendations from Preisendanz since the papyrus isn’t in the best state), there’s only one real lacuna, in the first string of words in the name ΗΚΕΩΦΥΗΙΔΡΥΜΗΩ.  Based on where the papyrus has degraded, Preisendanz identifies this as being two characters (ΗΚΕ__ΦΥΗΙΔΡΘΜΗΩ), which I initially guessed would be filled in with ΘΕ.  My choice of this here is really more of a guess than anything else, since there’s no real way of telling given the condition of the papyrus and the ink, but from what remains and based on the handwriting, ΘΕ seems to fit here, though I’m sure there are other possibilities.  ΣΑ would be another choice, but given how rarely sigma appears in this section’s barbarous words, and given how often thēta appears, I’d be more inclined with that.  Looking at the papyrus itself, we start PGM I.195ff at the line just above the centered single-word line on the first column in the digitized scan from the Staatliche Museen:

Upon checking out Preisendanz’ footnotes, he mentions that the word ΡΩΣΕΡΩΘ also appears in PGM IV, specifically in PGM IV.1167—1226 “the stele that is useful for all things”, which I myself call the Stele of Aiōn.  There are several parallels between PGM I.195ff and PGM IV.1167ff, including that both are fundamentally addressed to Aiōn-qua-Hēlios, both have connotations of being used in emergency situations to free one from death or extreme danger, both have a number of phraseological similarities throughout.  Most interestingly, however, we see a string of barbarous words there that are extremely similar to the one given in PGM I.195ff here:


In this light, and given the extreme similarity between these two strings, I went with the PGM IV.1167ff suggestion of ΗΚΕΩΦΥΗΙΔΡΥΜΗΩ (noting that an ōmega here would be about two characters wide and of roughly similar shape as ΘΕ).  In fact, given the number of emendations and suggestions Preisendanz had to make for PGM I given its condition, it might not be a bad idea to replace the whole string of barbarous words here in PGM I.195ff with that of PGM IV.1167ff.

Also, we should make a note here of the use of the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Josiah (not Jacob? weird) in the barbarous words, along with a number of other noted parallels to Psalms and a number of other books of the Bible.  Though, what’s interesting here is that, when we compare this part of PGM I.195ff to the Stele of Aiōn from PGM IV.1167ff again, we notice all the biblical names vanish (along with some of the biblical language, though other Judaizing elements are introduced).  Even with the changes to the barbarous words, the overall structure and spelling is still highly similar.


Notably, that string of barbarous names in PGM IV.1167ff is specifically labeled as a hundred-letter name, and the same quality holds in PGM I, as well, even accounting for the variations and differences in spelling and vocalization.  Whoever wrote these prayers and based one on the other or as variants of the same source knew what they were doing in keeping to that quality.

In any case, what PGM I.195ff gives us is indeed a “prayer of deliverance”, and it ends with the sole instruction of “say this to Hēlios or whenever you are forced to do so” (though Betz notes that the translation is tentative at this point), and although the purpose of this prayer is not exactly given explicitly except as “deliverance”, the phrasing given towards the end of the prayer (“shield me against all excess of power of the aerial Daimōn and of Fate”) and in this sole instruction suggest that it is deliverance from the onslaught of a demonic attack.  However, I’d like to propose a slightly different translation for “you are forced to do so”, given the Greek καταληφθῇς used here.  If we take out the aspiration, we end up with καταληπτῇς, which more has connotations of being seized or arrested.  This, again, has parallels with PGM IV.1167ff, which “is useful for all things; it even delivers from death”.  Again, that notion of deliverance, and in PGM IV.1167ff, it asks for protection “from every excess of power and from every violent act”.  While both of these prayers can certainly be used and interpreted as asking for deliverance from demonic/spiritual attack, I think that the crux of it is really more specifically about demonic obsession or possession, to be recited by someone who is being so accosted by spirits that they threaten to take over the body, or alternatively, an actual plea to divinity for help in being restrained, abducted, arrested, or detained by worldly authorities (which is just a material and potentially more archonic parallel of demonic possession).  What leads me to think that this is also to be used for worldly restraints is that notion of being saved “from every excess of power of the aerial Daimōn or of Fate“.  It’s that “or of Fate” bit that suggests that there’s more going on here than spiritual attack, but the actual workings of the cosmos that happen to be working against you at that moment in whatever form they might take.

What I was looking for was a general prayer to Hēlios, but PGM I.195ff doesn’t seem to cut it for me; although potent, to be sure, it seems too tailored for a specific (dire) situation to be used more generally as an invocation.  Although the parallels between this and PGM IV.1167ff are strong, and although that latter is a prayer “useful for all things”, I think the usefulness there is for extreme cases of need of deliverance, saving, and protection from actual harm rather than for use as an invocation or simple praise.  I could be simply limiting myself out of an excess of caution, but something about reciting either of these prayers too freely seems to cheapen their power a bit.  After all, an alternative reading of that last line from PGM I.195ff, λέγε Ἡλίῳ ἣ ὄποθ ἑὰν καταληφθῇς, instead of being “say this to Hēlios or whenever you are seized/forced to do so”, could also be “say this to Hēlios if you are truly seized”.  There are other prayers in PGM I, II, III, and others that give invocations to Hēlios in one form or another, I suppose, that could be investigated besides, and I know that some other PGM-minded magicians use PGM IV.1167ff as a prayer to Hēlios along these lines, though I’m not sure I agree with the use of it in this way for the reasons noted above.

On top of that, there’s another thing that nags me about this prayer.  I was originally looking for a prayer to Hēlios, and sure enough, this “prayer of deliverance” is meant to be said to Hēlios, but…well, it’s not all that solar of a prayer.  I mean, sure, Betz has the initial invocation directed to the “eternal ruler of the sun’s rays”, but Preisendanz translates this instead as berharrender Herrscher “persistent ruler”, and the original Greek has it as ἀκινοκράτωρ which I translate as “unmoved ruler”; I’m not really sure where Betz got “eternal ruler of the sun’s rays” from.  It’s really not all that solar of a prayer at all, and when we also consider the notion of “eternal ruler of the pole” (αἰωνοπολοκράτωρ which, again, Betz weirdly translates as “eternal ruler of the celestial orb”), that ties it more into the much bigger divinity of Aiōn a la the Heptagram Rite from PGM XIII or other high-cosmic deities that go well above and beyond the Sun’s station.  True, PGM IV.1167ff does explicitly address that prayer to Hēlios, but I’d be more inclined to interpret that as Hēlios as an attribute of Aiōn rather than Hēlios as Aiōn.  Instead of interpreting that final line of PGM I.195ff as addressing the prayer to Hēlios the deity, I think it’d be at least as appropriate to interpret it as meaning that the prayer is to be said facing the Sun, a literal direction instead of a metaphorical one, and using the physical Sun (wherever it might be placed in the sky, though presumably only at daytime) as a focal point for the higher deity of Aiōn.

Oh well, I guess the search continues.  In the meantime, however, I’d like to share a small invocation that I use for the Sun in the mornings after my usual daily prayers and routine.  This is a mix of Julian’s Prayer to Hēlios, the invocation from Orphic gold mystery tablets, several divine names associated with the Sun from the PGM, and my own invocations.

Hail to you, Lord Hēlios, Lord of the All!
O Spirit of the Cosmos, Power of the Cosmos, Light of the Cosmos,
be kind to us, be gracious to us, be propitious to us all!
Shine upon us, your children, the children of starry Heaven and fertile Earth:
you whose light is unconquerable, you whose light is for ever,
as you rise from the darkness under the Earth into the brightness of the heavens!
Bless us, your children, the children of starry Heaven and fertile Earth:
grant us your Spirit that we might live,
your Power that we might work,
your Light that we might see,
and your Fire to fuel and temper the flames of want and will in our own hearts!


The bit in Greek text at the bottom is a combination of several things:

  • ΗΙ ΙΕΟΥ from PGM XII.270—350 as an exclamatory invocation corresponding to the Egyptian i iꜣw, “o hail”.
  • ΑΧΕΒΥΚΡΩΜ from PGM XIII.1—343 (the Heptagram Rite), an explicit name of Hēlios, specifically “the flame and radiance of the [solar] disc”.
  • ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ is Abrasax, whose solar connections are obvious and replete through the PGM.
  • ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ from various parts of the PGM, a Hellenization of Hebrew shemesh `olam, “eternal Sun”.
  • ΨΟΙ ΦΝΟΥΘΙ ΝΙΝΘΗΡ from PGM IV.1596—1715 (the Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios) as a name of the Sun, but which in Egyptian corresponds to “the Agathodaimōn, the god of gods”.
  • ΧΑΙΡΕ ΗΛΙΕ ΠΑΝΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡ is just Greek for “Hail, Sun, All-Ruler”.

The line “as you rise from the darkness under the Earth into the brightness of the heavens” was written with the intent that this salutation and invocation of the Sun would be done in the morning around sunrise, but it could be modified or replaced for any of the four solar points of the day, Liber Resh style if one so chooses:

  • Sunrise: …as you rise from the darkness under the Earth into the brightness of the heavens!
  • Noon: …as you culminate in the highest heights of the bright summit of the heavens!
  • Sunset: …as you descend from the brightness of the heavens into the darkness of the Earth!
  • Midnight: …as you settle in the deepest depths of the dark womb of the Earth!

I hope this short invocation can be of some use to others, now that spring is here in the northern hemisphere and as the Sun has moved into its own exaltation of Aries.

A Simple PGM Invocation to the Supreme Intelligence

Recently on my Curious Cat (which has been an ongoing thing that delights me endlessly, some 3300 questions later!), I was asked a simple question: “Do you know if in PGM there’s some sort of invocation of the Nous?”  Off the top of my head, I couldn’t recall any, given that the Nous is something more of a Hermetic and Platonic entity than anything typically common in the PGM, so I got out my copy and started searching through it for anything resembling it.  As it turns out, there is actually a short invocation along these lines to the Nous in the PGM that I wanted to explore a bit, especially in the slightly expanded context of where it appears.

Let’s look at PGM V.459ff, a short prayer found in see British Museum Papyrus 46, folio 7, both recto and verso.  This is my rendition of the prayer, using Betz’s version of the PGM as a base and transliterating the barbarous words back into Greek:

I call upon you who created earth and bones and all flesh and all spirit and who established the sea and suspended the heavens,
who separated the light from the darkness,
the Supreme Intelligence who lawfully administers all things!
Eternal Eye, Daimon of Daimons, God of Gods, the Lord of the Spirits,
ΑΙΩΝ ΙΑΩ ΟΥΗΙ who cannot go astray!
Hear my voice!

I call upon you, Master of the Gods, high-thundering Zeus, sovereign Zeus: ΑΔΩΝΑΙ
I am he who calls upon you, great god, in Syrian: ΖΑΑΛΑΗΡ ΙΦΦΟΥ
You must not ignore my voice in Hebrew: ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ ΑΒΡΑΣΙΛΩΑ

High-minded one, immortal one, who possess the crown of the whole world!

The same, but with the barbarous words in my transcription:

I call upon you who created earth and bones and all flesh and all spirit and who established the sea and suspended the heavens,
who separated the light from the darkness,
the Supreme Intelligence who lawfully administers all things!
Eternal Eye, Daimon of Daimons, God of Gods, the Lord of the Spirits,
AIŌN IAŌ ŪĒI who cannot go astray!
Hear my voice!

I call upon you, Master of the Gods, high-thundering Zeus, sovereign Zeus: ADŌNAI
I am he who calls upon you, great god, in Syrian: ZAHALAĒR IPH-PHŪ
You must not ignore my voice in Hebrew: ABLANATHANALBA ABRASILŌA

High-minded one, immortal one, who possess the crown of the whole world!

There’s a short note at the end in the usual PGM style referring to the use of the above invocation: “it loosens shackles, makes invisible, sends dreams; a spell for gaining favor.  Add the usual for what you want.”  The prayer has no other information associated with it, though it is prefixed with the label “Another way”; however, the preceding entry (PGM V.447ff) gives a ritual for a talismanic ring of Serapis for dream divination, so it doesn’t seem to be related to that, though given that the previous ritual is to Serapis (originally spelled “Sarapis”) and given the barbarious word ΣΑΡΑΠΗΟΛΣΩ (SARAPĒOLSŌ, as in Serapis; Betz and Preisendanz give this as two separate words, ΣΑΡΑΠΙ ΟΛΣΩ, but the scan of Papyrus 46 shows it as one word as given above) in the final line of this invocation, I may be mistaken, and that this invocation could also be used for dream divination.  For reference, the preceding ritual in PGM V.447ff prescribes the following:

  • Procure a “jasperlike agate” stone for setting into a ring.
  • Engrave on the front of the stone an image of Serapis seated and facing forwards holding an Egyptian royal scepter (a was scepter?) with an ibis atop the scepter, and on the reverse of the stone the name Serapis.
  • Set the stone into a ring (perhaps even have it so that the stone itself is completely encased and hidden within the ring?) and keep it secret and hidden away from anyone and everyone until you need to use the ring.
  • When you need to perform dream divination:
    • Wear the ring on the index finger of your left hand; in your right hand, hold a spray of olive and laurel twigs.
    • Wave the twigs towards “the lamp” while saying “the spell” seven times.
    • Without speaking to anyone, go to sleep, holding the ring to your left ear (perhaps most easily achieved by sleeping on your left side).

Oddly, PGM V.447ff doesn’t introduce “the lamp” or “the spell”, and this ritual seems well and truly disconnected from the preceding PGM V.370ff, which also doesn’t have a lamp, and the invocations there have nothing to do with this.  This makes me think that PGM V.447ff and V.459ff are actually part of the same ritual; the only thing that distinguishes them is the “Another way” that precedes the invocation from the latter, which is only present in the original PGM manuscript by a little squiggle on the left margin.  This same symbol, with the same “translation”, is present elsewhere in PGM V (like immediately before PGM V.172ff which follows the famous Headless Rite, folio 3 recto); granted, I’m no expert in Koiné Greek manuscript deciphering, but I’m a little doubtful of this meaning here.  I think it’s proper, rather, to read PGM V.447ff and V.459ff as one single ritual entirely, which would then mean that these two separate PGM entries are related, and that Serapis is a common factor in both; after all, the description of the invocation at the end does say that it “sends dreams”, which is exactly what the previous PGM entry aims to accomplish.

So, let’s think about both of these PGM entries, and combine them together a little more concretely.  If the whole ritual is designed to send prophetic dreams, then this is the process I would recommend.

  1. Procure a “jasperlike agate” stone, an oil lamp with a clean wick and pure oil, and a spray of olive and laurel twigs or branches.
  2. Engrave on the front of the stone an image of Serapis seated and facing forwards holding a royal scepter with an ibis atop the scepter, and on the reverse of the stone the name “Serapis” (ΣΕΡΑΠΙΣ).
  3. Either set the stone into a ring (preferably gold) or wrap it in a long band of clean, white linen.
  4. In the evening after sunset, light the lamp, and face east.
  5. With the ring on your left index finger, or with the stone bound to your left index finger with the linen wrap, hold the olive and laurel sticks in your right, and wave them in a clockwise circle towards the lamp.  While doing so, recite the invocation above seven times.
  6. Go to bed with the lamp lit, saying nothing more to anyone or for any purpose, and sleep on your left side facing the east and head pointed to the north with the ring/stone by your left ear.

In the above, a “jasperlike agate” is a little weird, since both jasper and agate are the same material (chalcedony), with the only difference being how translucent (agate) or opaque (jasper) they are.  In this case, “jasperlike agate” to me would be a chalcedony stone that is only barely translucent and mostly opaque, perhaps with only the barest of striations or bands in it.  Likewise, the scepter with an ibis on it could be a little difficult to understand; it could be the famous was-scepter, or the heka-scepter, i.e. the crook from the crook-and-flail combination.  Alternatively, given that the was-scepter itself is a rod with a stylized animal’s head on top of it, one could simply make an “ibis-scepter”, with the head of an ibis on a rod being held…though, with the long curve of the ibis beak, this would make it look awfully like a crook unto itself.

So that’s all well and good, I suppose, but what I really wanted to talk about is the invocation itself.  The whole reason why it came to my attention was the phrase “Supreme Mind” (ὁ μέγας Νοῦς, ho mégas Noûs), which is what the original anon on Curious Cat was after; the only other instances of this entity being present in the PGM are in PGM XIII (aka “the Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses”, the origin of the Heptagram Rite), but it’s more in a cosmogony/narrative sense than any invocation or ritual.  In Betz’s version, “Supreme Mind” is tagged with a footnote, that “[t]he concept of the divine Nus (Mind) is an influence from Greek philosophy”, followed by a list of citations where Nous is found in a philosophical-religious sense, including PGM XIII as well as the Corpus Hermeticum.  And it is most certainly true that Nous in the Corpus Hermeticum is a divine entity, sometimes being something divine that divine humans can attain and sometimes being the Divine Itself, so it’s tempting to view this particular entry of the PGM as being explicitly Hermetic in the Corpus Hermeticum sense.  The issue with that conclusion, however, is that I’m not sure the timeline matches up.  Historically speaking, I’m a fan of the theory that Hermeticism in the sense of the Corpus Hermeticum and related “Hermetic” texts came about as a philosophical-religious movement in the early days (or, really, centuries) of the Roman Empire, so the PGM may be roughly contemporaneous as the Corpus Hermeticum; it could be that this text was influenced by Hermeticism, sure, but it could be equally as likely that it was simply influenced by Platonism and was written either before or concurrently with Hermeticism.

Plus, there’s some other interesting stuff in this prayer I want to consider.  Do you recall our earlier talk about PGM XXIIb.1ff, the “Prayer of Jacob”, which I later redid and rewrote and augmented into a fuller Prayer of the Patriarchs?  That was an interesting bit of work, and certainly has some Hermetic (or close enough) influence, but is also surprisingly Jewish in its approach to divinity.  There’s a bit of that here, too.  There is the explicit call to the Divine (I guess the Nous, equivalent to Zeus as well as Serapis) in Hebrew (ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ ΑΒΡΑΣΙΛΩΑ, ABLANATHANALBA ABRASILŌA), but there’s also the string of barbarous words ΒΑΡΟΥΧ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ ΕΛΩΑΙ ΙΑΒΡΑΑΜ, BARŪKH ADŌNAI ELŌAI IABRAAM.  (Betz and Preisendanz just give ΑΒΡΑΑΜ, but the scan from Papyrus 46 shows ΙABRAAM.)  It’s clear, even to Betz, that this is just a Greek rendition of the Hebrew barukh [atah] Adonai, “blessed [are you], my Lord” and eloah-i Avraham, “my god of Abraham”, though “it is not clear whether or not the magician understood these words”, especially since ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ ΑΒΡΑΣΙΛΩΑ are most likely not Hebrew at all.  I mean, much of the Jewish content in the PGM is probably just aped from Jewish tradition and practices, without it being necessarily or properly Jewish in any sense, but the fact that it has a presence at all speaks to the influence of monotheistic and Abrahamic practices, even if just because of a general perception of their power.

As might be expected, many of the other barbarous words have other presences in the PGM, especially ΖΑΓΟΥΡΗ (sometimes along ΠΑΤΟΥΡΗ or ΠΑΓΟΥΡΗ, notably PGM LXXXVIII.1ff), ΛΑΙΛΑΜ, and others.  ΝΕΒΟΥΘ is unusual, in that it’s super close to ΝΕΒΟΥΤ, which starts the barbarous word ΝΕΒΟΥΤΟΣΟΥΑΛΗΘ, which is often found in contexts related to Set or Hekatē.  The first bit of the final set of barbarous words (ΣΙΕΠΗ ΣΑΚΤΙΕΤΗ ΒΙΟΥ ΒΙΟΥ ΣΦΗ ΣΦΗ ΝΟΥΣΙ ΝΟΥΣΙ ΣΙΕΘΟ ΣΙΕΘΟ…) is almost found identically in PGM XIII.734ff as well as in PGM I.232ff, PGM II.64ff, and PGM XII.96ff; there seems to be a regularly reoccuring formula consisted of duplicated words like these.  The “Syrian” name ΖΑΑΛΑΗΡ ΙΦΦΟΥ (Betz and Preisendanz give it as one word, but Papyrus 46 seems to show a space in it) is a weird one, and I can’t find anything resembling it in the rest of the PGM; while I don’t think it’s Aramaic or “Syrian” at all, I think it’d be interesting to see if there is an actual origin for this word, or if there is something close to it in the rest of the PGM, perhaps with some variation of spelling (though I couldn’t find any from the likely variations I came up with).

Given the various types of barbarous words in this invocation, the lack of asking for anything specific within the prayer itself, and how it’s described as a general-purpose invocation, this short little prayer seems to be a good PGM-style approach to invoking the Supreme Intelligence—whether as Zeus, Serapis, Nous, or even the Abrahamic God.  It’s something I want to try incorporating into some of my practices, and maybe even give it a whirl for dream divination itself.

Also, for ease of reference and for those who are interested, I already made a formal ritual page for this: the Divine Illumination of Dreams, accessible through the site menu (Rituals → Classical Hermetic Rituals → Divine Illumination of Dreams).

Mathētic Order of Offerings to the Theoi

One of the longest spiritual practices I’ve maintained more-or-less continually, or at least kept around in one form or another, is that to the Greek gods.  I have a shrine to a few of them in my temple, and though the form and shape of it has waxed and waned over the years, I’ve kept venerating and offering to them since I got started, pretty much.  From my apartment after college where I had Hermēs in one corner of my bedroom and Asklepios against the wall, and after with Dionysos joining Asklepios; then moving into a house with my boyfriend and having an entire room for my spiritual stuff, with an elaborate set of glass shelves for the theoi, with separate spaces for Zeus and Aphroditē and Apollo and Hephaistos and even Hadēs at one point; now into the house I moved in with my now-husband and having another room set up with different qualities and things got downsized a bit.  Hestia, of course, has been around in every house in one form or another, and Dionysos has gone from having an entire shrine dedicated and decorated to him to being…reduced in size but not in presence to a special contraption I set up just for him.  All the same, throughout all these changes, I’ve still kept up my worship of the theoi.

My practices have changed somewhat between moves from house to house and temple to temple; for instance, in the last place where I lived, my temple room was across from the hallway bathroom and had a window outside, so it was trivial to dump offerings out or get water anytime I needed.  Now, however, my temple is in a basement room with no easy access to either external ventilation or a sink or drain of any sort.  This makes disposing of old offerings and libations a little different, and given the lack of ventilation and general light, it’s easy for libations set out to evaporate really quickly or get mold faster than I would’ve thought otherwise.  That makes, for instance, the use of many small libation vessels for each theos I have enshrined a pain, because they all have to be hauled up the stairs to the kitchen to be emptied and washed then all hauled back downstairs, and so forth.  Besides that, I used to open the window during ritual as a symbolic act as a means to “let the god in” and for incense offerings to reach the heavens, but I can’t do that at this point, so I have to adjust my processes for that.

As I’m getting back to my daily practice (and struggling to find out how to make things more efficient and effective while still making things count), I’ve also been digging through my notes to see what insights I had before, what my proposed methodologies or practices were, and how I managed to get by before and how I did things.  I suppose that’s one benefit of blogging so much, because I found two such posts on my method of offering to the theoi, specifically within the context of Mathēsis, one post on general daily mathētic practices, the other on a specifically mathētic procedure to make offerings to the gods.  The former is good for me to review anyway, because it’s something I need to get back on as well, either by reworking it to be less-than-daily or by incorporating it into my general daily practices, and because it recommends a regular, daily offering or invocation of the god of the day according to my Grammatēmerologion calendar.  The latter is actually useful, because it documents one such way that an invocation and offering to a god might be done, whether associated with a particular day or otherwise, and whether it’s a grand offering or just a small quick invocation.

However, as I look back on this procedure, there are things that I really would feel more comfortable changing than keeping the same.  (That’s one good benefit of writing my own blog; I get to make the claim that anything I write can be improved on later!)  Between my own experiences and interactions with the theoi on their own terms and by bringing in other ideas that I’m comfortable with applying across the board, there are some things I’m getting into the habit of that I wouldn’t’ve considered before.  For instance, while in the past I would often (but not always) make a perfunctory and preliminary offering to Hestia while also saying that it’s not strictly necessary, nowadays I’m definitely on the side of always making an offering to her to start with before any others, though I’m not entirely convinced that every offering must also conclude with another one to her, as well.  Rather, I’m now in the habit of honoring Zeus in every offering, regardless whether he’s the focus of my prayers or not, due to his role as divine cosmic king who rules over the three realms; at first I had his name praised and made a perfunctory offering to him before any other god (besides Hestia), but after some conversation, I make him last.  Or second-to-last, if Hestia gets a final offering as well.

So, let me draw out my process and my thinking.  It is true that many of the theoi operate independently in some respects, but it is also true that they are all part of the same pantheon and part of the same cosmic schema.  Just as you can’t remove a single number from the Decad and have it still remain the Decad, you can’t really remove a single theos from the theoi and have it remain the pantheon.  However, not every individual theos needs to be worshipped at all times, but a few key ones that allow for worship to happen at all makes more sense.  For that, the general order of invocation and offering that I use nowadays goes like this:

  1. Perfunctory initial offering to Hestia.  Hestia should always get the first offering, because she’s the goddess of the hearth and home itself.  Without her, we would have nowhere to live, build, or establish shrines; it is only by her support that we can make such offerings in our own homes, dwellings, and temples.  If one is living in the wild and makes offerings in a pristine place untouched by civilization with offerings that are not the products of agriculture or animal husbandry, then I would make an argument that an offering to Hestia is not needed, but it would still be appreciated as she is still rightly the eldest of the first generation of the Olympian Theoi.
  2. Perfunctory offering of wine to Dionysos.  This step is sometimes skipped depending on what I’m offering.  If I’m offering wine in this ceremony, and I’m either going to run out of an existing bottle or if I’m opening a new bottle of wine for any reason, I open it up here and pour a small amount for Dionysos, giving him thanks for his own sacrifices and allowing us to partake in his sacrifice of flesh and the grape which allows us to perform our own sacrifices.  In many ways, Dionysos is the god of wine as well as the god in wine; by opening a new bottle and giving him the first pour, we recognize his presence and dedicate our sacrifices to his own.
  3. Perfunctory offering to Hermes.  Hermēs is important to always recognize, and by calling on him, we ensure that our prayers can be heard by any and all the gods.  Hermēs is the messenger of the gods, to be sure, but he’s also the messenger between gods and mankind; it’s by him that we come to know the will and desires of the gods, but it’s also by him that they come to know our prayers and supplications.  Hermēs is, indeed, the god of prayer and ritual in general, just as Hestia can be said to be the goddess of shrines in general and Dionysos the god of sacrificing wine in general.  Plus, this helps with the notion of “bringing the god in” for when I call upon the presence of a particular deity; before, I’d open the window as a formal “opening of the gate”, but since I don’t have a window anymore, this seems to suffice as well.  It’d still be great to have a window or some other aperture, but I simply don’t have that option available to me.
  4. Main offering.  This is where the actual invocation to the god begins.  All their prayers and invocations and offerings and whatnot take place after all the initial offerings are made.
  5. Perfunctory concluding offering to Zeus.  At the end of the ceremony, once the other offerings are made, Zeus should also always be honored, as the divine ruler of the cosmos, the father of gods and men, and the supreme king of all.  In honoring Zeus who rules over the three domains of sky, sea, and land, we also honor all those who live within them, both mortal and immortal.  This suffices not only to render tribute to the god of gods, but also to recognize the divinity of all the other gods who fall under Zeus’ domain.
  6. Other perfunctory concluding offerings.  As Hestia is the first-born of Rhea and Kronos, she is also their last-born; she was born first from Rhea’s womb, and torn out last from Kronos’ belly.  The Homeric Hymn to Hestia (#24) says that “without you mortals hold no banquet, where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last”.  However, I don’t think that this sort of concluding offering is strictly needed after that of Zeus, but it can certainly be done; if it were, I think it would also be appropriate to honor both Hermēs and Hestia both for both their roles as divinities of prayer-speaking as well as that of shrine-keeping.  In other words, after the main offering and offering to Zeus, we work backwards: if we start with Hestia and Hermēs, we end with Hermēs and Hestia.  It’s something I’m still working out, admittedly.

This idea of a ritual process, going through multiple divinities in order to sacrifice to one, may seem needlessly complicated; I know I thought that at one point, and before, I’d just go to my Apollo shrine and do my thing and be done with it.  That said, I think of my other traditions where there is absolutely an order to worship, where certain divinities must be honored before others; this idea works for the Greek gods, too.  Plus, there are other examples of having such an order; consider the Hellenist reconstruction group Elaion and their ritual templates shared by Elani Temperance over at Baring the Aegis, where every ritual begins with a libation to Hestia, to Gaia, and to Themis before proceeding with the main event, and all of which conclude with a final offering to Hestia.  This also makes sense: just as we honor Hestia for being the goddess of hearth and home and shrine, so too do we honor the Earth for supporting all that happens and to divine Law and Order for that which is proper that all might continue to be proper.  Sure, it might seem easier to just make offerings to one god (and a lot less use of wine and oil and incense), but the more I think about it and the more I practice it, the more sense it makes to really go in for the process and proper sequencing of things in a formal offering.

Of course, all that above is just the general template, and templates change in certain circumstances.  For instance, if I were to just make an offering to Hestia for Hestia’s own sake, I wouldn’t really bother with Hermēs or the other gods, because Hestia is already right there present in my home, so Hestia is one of the very few (perhaps the only) divinity I could just sacrifice directly to and not get the rest of the gang involved and not feel bad about it.  In general, however, there’s always going to be a process, and there are certain rules to how that process might change in certain examples.  Let’s consider a few examples, with the main event in bold text and anything unexpected in italics:

  1. Hestia
    1. Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hestia, Zeus
    2. Because Hestia is always first no matter what, she still comes first.  However, as she’s immediately present and we’re already making an offering to her, we don’t need the messenger/interpreter presence of Hermēs.  If a new bottle of wine is to be opened, a perfunctory offering to Dionysos should come first before Hestia, though this is really more a respect gesture than anything else.  Likewise, Zeus can still be honored afterwards, but beyond Hestia and honoring the hearth itself that even the gods honor, there’s not too much that needs to be done.
  2. Dionysos
    1. Hestia, Hermēs, Dionysos, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. Normally, we’d have a perfunctory offering to Dionysos before Hermēs if we’re opening a new bottle of wine.  However, if I’m offering to Dionysos himself, I’d skip that stage and celebrate him entirely in his own part of the ceremony.  Instead of being given just a token, perfunctory offering, he gets his own full thing going on.  After Dionysos is honored, then we’d give a perfunctory offering to Zeus, and if desired, any other concluding offerings to e.g. Hermēs and Hestia.
  3. Hermēs
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. Pretty straightforward here; Hermēs takes his usual place after Dionysos (if needed) and before Zeus, but as there are no other gods to be worshiped, Hermēs himself becomes the focus.  Instead of giving Hermēs a perfunctory offering, he gets a full offering here.
  4. Zeus
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Zeus, libation to all the gods, other conclusions
    2. Like with Hermēs, instead of just getting a perfunctory offering, Zeus himself is celebrated in full.
    3. However, remember that Zeus is normally celebrated in every ceremony to remind ourselves of his divine and cosmic importance, and by him, we can honor all the other gods and goddesses of the cosmos.  However, if we’re worshiping and offering to Zeus as Zeus alone, then we’d need something to step in to formally recognize all the other entities of the cosmos, hence a separate step for the “libation to all the gods” after Zeus.  This would be perfunctory, as the offering to Zeus any other time would be.
  5. Apollo
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Apollo, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. This is the basic template, using Apollo as the main offering.  Nothing unexpected here.
  6. Asklepios
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Apollo, Asklepios, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. This is essentially the basic template, with Asklepios as the main offering, but note how we’re also honoring Apollo immediately before him.  This is because, as I reckon it, Asklepios is not sufficiently independent or major of a god in his own right.  Sure, he can be offered to independently and on his own, but I find it more proper to recognize his father Apollo first.  In other words, to use a royal metaphor, Asklepios is a noble in the royal court ruled by Apollo; as Apollo is the ruler of that court, he gets first honors, and then any
    3. A similar case would go for any other minor god that is clearly part of another god’s “court”, such as Hēbē under Hēra, Eros under Aphroditē, Tykhē under Zeus, Nikē under Athena, and so forth.   Recognize the primary god of that court first with a perfunctory offering, then the minor god as the main offering.

Although the Greeks may not have conceived of their gods as belonging to “courts” per se, I think it’s still a useful classification of the minor gods and goddesses around central rulers who were more well-known.  For instance, I would consider all the thalassic deities Triton, Nereus, and the Nereides and Naiadēs including Thetis to all belong to the court of Poseidon, who either is the father, husband, brother, or conquering usurper of the other gods.  In sacrifice and myth, this may not really be true, but it’s a really useful way to organize “groups” of the theoi for the purposes of my Grammatēmerologion calendar, which assigns the letters of the Greek alphabet to the days of the lunar month, and by the letters, to individual signs of the Zodiac or other powers, which are associated the major gods of the Hellenic pantheon.  For instance, in the Grammatēmerologion, the twenty-third day of the lunar month is given to the letter Tau.  Tau is given to the zodiacal sign of Pisces, which is associated with the theos Poseidon; thus, it makes sense to cluster the worship of all the oceanic deities onto the day of Tau, just as all the deities associated with Hēra like Hēbē and Eileithyia are given to Hēra’s day of Sigma and so forth.  If nothing else, honoring the “court ruler” of a minor god also counts as honoring the primary god of the same day that minor god would be worshiped on, which fulfills part of my daily mathētic practices.

So, when I say “perfunctory offering”, what exactly do I mean?  Basically, a token offering, a nod, something I give just enough to recognize the divinity I’m making such an offering to.  It’s really little more than a very quick pour of wine or clean water, no more than an ounce or a few drops, accompanied by a few words of honor and veneration, calling upon their aid.  If I feel like it, I’ll recite the entire Orphic Hymn or one of the shorter Homeric Hymns to them, but in general, what I’ll say is something short, like:

Hestia, as you were first born of Rhea and last born of Kronos, so too do you receive the first offering and the last!  Queen goddess of the hearth, without you we could not live nor could we offer to the gods.  Right and proper it is to honor you first in all such rites.

Dionysos, roaring lord of reborn life, yours is the blood of the vine which we cut and rend that we might live and live well.  As you spilled your blood that we might partake in it, I give you the first offering of this bottle that you might always be honored in every pour and spill.

Hermēs, you are the messenger of gods and men, to whom we all turn in all our rites.  Hear my prayers, take these sacrifices, and carry them aloft to divine ears and immortal hands!  May all the righteous ways of worship be opened for me and for the gods!

With that, I’ll pour out a bit of wine and olive oil out—not a lot, because it’s better to give a little so that we always have something to give, and if we’re going through the process, then we’ve already got a lot to give.  From what I’ve been doing, it seems that a standard set of offerings will take around half a normal 750ml bottle of wine and maybe an ounce or two of olive oil.  While before I was pouring straight from the wine bottle into individual vessels for each individual divinity, which was fine when I could more easily wash them or empty them without having to schlep them up and down stairs, I’m now in the habit of using a large white bowl I set before my entire Greek shrine, and pouring in libations into that from a smaller white bowl.  That way, I can partake of the libation and give a toast to each of the gods as I offer, and I replicate the old practice of pouring a libation out on the ground itself.  The bowl, of course, keeps it all contained instead of splashing everywhere, and is easier to carry up instead of four or six silver or glass chalices full of wine and oil.

Of course, all of the above—the process, the order, the perfunctory offerings versus the main offerings, the courts, etc.—only really count if I’m making an actual offering to the theoi.  On days when I don’t, either because I don’t want to or don’t need to, there’s no need to go through all of that.  Instead, a simple invocation will suffice.  For instance, say that it’s the day of Gamma; Gamma is associated with Taurus, and thus with Aphroditē.  If I’m going to make a full offering to Aphroditē that day, then yes, I’ll go through the process of Hestia, Dionysos, Hermēs, Aphroditē, Zeus, &c.  However, if I’m not, whether because I’m too tired or don’t plan on doing an offering to Aphroditē that day, then I’d just call on her and give her a simple prayer; rather than giving her a main offering in the midst of a bunch of perfunctory offerings, I’d just give her a perfunctory (or bigger) invocation with no other process involved.  In other words, if all I’m doing is verbally honoring and recognizing the god of the day, then there’s no sacrifice or offering, so the whole process of offering doesn’t apply.  Easy, indeed, and if it’s all I need to get by for a daily practice, then all the better.

I’m sure, given enough time, this proposed method will continue to change.  What is becoming clear to me is that it’s easier for me to bundle my already-existing Hellenic/Greek practices into my overall Mathēsis work, which is fine by me; the less I have to arrange as separate “practices”, especially when one directly comes from the other and is going to subsume it anyway, the better.  By refocusing my Hellenic work into my Mathēsis work, I can better focus both together and synthesize them in a way that reduces stress and conflict while still being able to expand and expound on both.  Plus, if this Mathēsis stuff is actually going to head in the direction I want it, having processes for this sort of thing are definitely a needed and beneficial organizing principle.